Titus Mejia-Rice (right) grapples with Brandon Zeiher of Scio in the 145-pound state title match. PETE NELSON
Some key wins but ultimate heartbreak awaited the Creswell Bulldogs at last weekend’s OSAA 3A Wrestling State Tournament at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
A two-time state champion at 145 pounds, junior Titus Mejia-Rice was halfway to his goal of winning four straight state titles. But that dream was dashed by a 0-1 loss to Brandon Zeiher of Scio in the championship match, and Mejia-Rice settled for second place.
Senior Blake Nelson, seeded second at 220 pounds, sought his own state championship but placed third.
Mejia-Rice entered the state tournament unseeded, while Zeiher was seeded second. But that only lit a fire under Mejia-Rice, who battled his way to the title match with a 1:14 pin over Grant Fehrenbacher of Rogue River, followed by an 11-6 decision over top seed Chris Acosta of Nyssa in the quarterfinals and an 11-1 major decision over Clay Siddoway of Vale in the semifinals.
”He caught fire,” said Coach Wayne Roberts. ”He wrestled very well. I know he’s not happy with the result, but hopefully he can overcome it and come back even stronger next season. He can still be a three-timer (state champion).”
In the title match, Roberts noted Zeiher’s strategy was apparently to stall – although he wasn’t penalized for it. ”The refs don’t want to make that call at state, because they don’t want that call to be the difference in the match – but they should,” Roberts said. For that reason, ”it was a horrible match to watch, unfortunately.”
Zeiher scored his lone point on a third-round escape. ”He chose down and Titus couldn’t hold him down,” Roberts said.
Nelson opened with a 3-0 decision over Edgar Rivera of Nyssa, followed by a 1:59 fall over of Tristen Spaeth of Rogue River in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, he dropped a 3-5 decision to third-ranked Jordan Mode of Willamina/Falls City. The match was tied 1-1 with 42 seconds remaining and seemed headed for overtime. But with 10 seconds left, ”Blake took a shot and the kid got around behind him and took him down; then Blake was just shooting, trying to score, and it happened again.
”I know Blake’s disappointed he didn’t make the finals, but he’s worked hard and wrestled great all season,” Roberts said.
Nelson then earned a 4:56 fall over Skyler Williams of Jefferson and a 3-1 decision over Rivera to take third.
”Blake and Titus are both leaders on the team, and their example has a lot of our returning kids asking, ‘What can we do? What can we do?’ (to get ready for next season),” Roberts said. ”Our coaches and wrestlers are all dedicated to a common goal: becoming a force to be reckoned with.”